by Rita Charleston
Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler, is currently concluding its 15th anniversary season by dreaming “The Impossible Dream” with the classic musical, “Man of La Mancha,“ which has been extended through June 8.
Winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the story is based on the classic novel “The Adventures of Don Quixote,” and begins with author Miguel de Cervantes being locked up in prison. (Published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615, “Don Quixote” is considered a founding work of modern Western literature. It is one of the earliest novels in Europe, and it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.)
“The idea of the story is that Cervantes is in prison to be tried before the Inquisition, and he has brought into the cell with him his trunk full of theatrical gear and his manuscript of ‘Don Quixote.’ But whenever a new prisoner enters the cell, the other prisoners put him on trial, and if he’s found guilty, they will take all his stuff,” explains Matt Tallman, who plays multiple roles, including the Duke, one of the prisoners. “Cervantes’ defense will be putting on a play, the story of Don Quixote, and the Duke is the one who wants to be the prosecutor.”
Tallman, 41, who resides in Flourtown, is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. With an MFA in acting from Southern Methodist University, Tallman feels very fortunate to have found his calling early in life. “I had an older brother who did some acting in a summer program where they put on plays,” Tallman recalls, “and when I saw him acting, it was the first time it occurred to me that acting was not just something to watch but also something you could participate in.”
With that realization, Tallman began doing some shows in high school and taking classes as well as doing improvisation work when he was just 12 years old. Playing in productions around the country, he, his wife Kelly, a stage manager, and his daughter, Annie, 8, moved to our area in late 2010 to be closer to Kelly’s family, who live in Flourtown. With both parents in the business, Annie, who attends Plymouth Meeting Friends School and has done some performances there, has already expressed an interest in acting.
But that’s in the future. For now, Matt Tallman is enjoying his role in “Man of La Mancha” and his life as an actor in general. He’s had many roles in numerous theater productions, but he says this one is especially enjoyable. The tale follows the romantic and noble journey of Don Quixote as he sets out to right the world’s wrongs and win the heart of a good woman, while dueling windmills along the way.
And while all the action is going on, the ensemble, including Tallman, also serve as the on-stage orchestra, playing such varied instruments as a violin, a melodica, a glockenspiel, a toy piano, a trash can and a cello.
“Everyone in the show plays multiple roles. The play is constructed that way,” Tallman explains, “but we’re very fortunate in that the conception of this particular show is having all the music played live by the actors on stage. That’s exciting because the story is set in this prison cell, so it lends itself to that contained feel.”
For this actor, the joy in acting is that he’s able to bring something special to his live performances. “I’m able to create this shared event between the actors and the audience. I’m able to take this text that someone has written and bring it to life. And every night I get to start from scratch and build it all over again, which brings the opportunity for new discoveries and those wonderful moments of connections.”
For ticket information regarding “Man of La Mancha,” call 215-654-0200.